International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Turkey

Turkey’s constitution contains many provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 56 states:“Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. It is the duty of the State and citizens to improve the natural environment, to protect environmental health and to prevent environmental pollution. The State shall regulate central planning and functioning of the health services to ensure that everyone leads a healthy life physically and mentally, and provide cooperation by saving and increasing productivity in human and material resources. The State shall fulfill this task by utilizing and supervising the health and social assistance institutions, in both the public and private sectors. In order to establish widespread health services, general health insurance may be introduced by law.

Article 169 reads: “The State shall enact the necessary legislation and take the measures required for the protection and extension of forests. Burnt forest areas shall be reforested; other agricultural and stockbreeding activities shall not be allowed in such areas. All forests shall be under the care and supervision of the State. The ownership of state forests shall not be transferred. State forests shall be managed and exploited by the State in accordance with the law. Ownership of these forests shall not be acquired by prescription, nor shall servitude other than that in the public interest be imposed in respect of such forests. Acts and actions that might damage forests shall not be permitted. No political propaganda that might lead to the destruction of forests shall be made; no amnesties or pardons specifically for offenses against forests shall be granted. Offenses committed with the intention of burning or destroying forests or reducing forest areas shall not be included within the scope of amnesties or pardons.The reducing of forest areas shall be prohibited, except in respect of areas whose preservation as forests is considered scientifically and technically useless but conversion into agricultural land has been found to be definitely advantageous, and in respect of fields, vineyards, orchards, olive groves or similar areas which technically and scientifically ceased to be forest before December 31, 1981 and whose use for agricultural or stockbreeding purposes has been found advantageous, and in respect of built-up areas in the vicinity of cities, towns or villages”

Finally, Article 170 reveals that “Measures shall be introduced by law to secure cooperation between the State and the inhabitants of villages located in or near forests in the supervision and exploitation of forests for the purpose of ensuring conservation of forests and their integrity, and improving the living conditions of these inhabitants; the law shall also regulate the exploitation of areas which technically and scientifically ceased to be forests before December 31, 1981; the identification of areas whose preservation as forest is considered scientifically and technically useless, their exclusion from forest boundaries and their improvement by the State for the purpose of settling all or some of the inhabitants of forest villages in them, and their allocation to these villages”.

Featured Legislation

1956: Forest Law No. 6831 was passed. This Law sets forth the basic forestry legislation. The boundaries of protection forest are determined and declared to the surrounding villages. The conditions, principles and periods of designation of such forests and management, development, improvement and utilization principles and decisions are decided by the Ministry of Forestry. The grazing of herds on the State forest lands should be done according to the plans and permission of the forestry administration. The costs of cutting, hauling, and stacking with tariff price and the necessities of the ones who are entitled to the right to building timber and the people among this group with poor status are determined by the board of village alderman with the participation of the forest chief considering the productivity of the forest and the requirements of the demanders. Private forests are managed and administered in accordance with management plans and maps undertaken by their owners and approved by the forest administration. A Reforestation Fund is established within the Ministry of Forestry for supporting reforestation/afforestation establishment and maintenance activities by the villagers.

1983: Environment Law No. 2872 was signed. Stated objectives of the Law include making provision for the improvement of use of land and natural resources and preserving the country's vegetative and livestock assets and natural and historical richness (art. 1).

1986: The Air Quality Regulation was created. The Regulation provides for the prevention and control of hazardous emissions, it sets forth provisions applying to facilities and vehicles potentially producing emissions, gas and steam in order to protect the environment against air pollution. The air quality standards are indicated in terms of long term, short term and winter term average limits. A License is required to operate facilities having a potential risk of producing emissions harmful to habitats and the environment. Facilities listed in Annex-8 List A must apply for a license from the General Directorate of Environment, and those in List B to a license from the local Environment Board. Licensing procedures are also indicated. A production facility could be inspected by appointed authorities, if and when evidence points to undesired emissions. Criteria indicated in Annex-11 apply for the assessment of emission rate. Technical specifications of gas waste discharge units are defined. The Regulation provides also for gas exhaust originating from motor vehicles, railroad engines, and boats which should all conform to the standard limits indicated by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The provincial governors are allowed to impose vehicle traffic rules if and when air quality limits exceed critical levels.

2004: The Regulation on environment and forestry assembly was implemented. The functions of the Assembly include, but are not limited to, providing recommendations on developing basic objectives and strategies regarding the preservation, management, and development of forests, gaming resources, and bio-diversity; providing recommendations on relationship between forests and population and developing in-forest villagers; providing recommendations on waste management and waste disposal; providing coordination among public and private agencies and NGOs. The Assembly is a consultative body and convenes every four years. Its 300-members include senior officials of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and pertinent public institutions and agencies; representatives of vocational agencies and civil society organizations; experts and managers related to environment and forestry issues; and designated staff from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Two of the assistant undersecretaries of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Head of the Research, Planning and Coordination Board of the Ministry, Head of Administrative and Financial Affairs of the Ministry, and Head of Training and Publications Department of the Ministry constitute the executive board of the assembly. An Assembly secretariat is established among the ministerial staff and its functions and duties are detailed in the regulation. Working groups are also set up for each item in the agenda. Detailed working procedures of the assembly are given in the regulation.

2005: The Law on utilization of renewable energy sources for electricity generation was promulgated. This Law aims at promoting the use of renewable energy sources widely for electricity generation, diversifying renewable energy resources, reducing GHG emissions, recycling, ensuring environmental protection, as well as developing the manufacturing sector to achieve these aims. This Law sets forth provisions on conservation of renewable energy sources, certification of electricity generated by renewable energy sources and procedures and principles of use of these sources.

2006: The Agriculture Law No.5488 was established. The purpose of this Law is to determine agricultural sector and rural area development plans and strategies in line with the policies and regulations supporting agricultural development. The Law defines the principles, objectives and priorities of agricultural policies, training and advisory services for farmers, protection of biodiversity and genetic resources, and ensuring biosecurity and biosafety. The Law states that the agricultural policies are aiming at improving welfare levels in the agricultural sector by ensuring agricultural development, increasing productivity, strengthening food safety and security, protecting and improving natural and biological resources, developing producer organizations, strengthening agricultural markets and ensuring rural development. Furthermore, the Law outlines duties, principles and objectives of the Agricultural Support and Guidance Committee. Support will be given to owners of agricultural lands exposed to erosion and adverse environmental effects to encourage them to use their lands for natural vegetation, meadows, pastures, organic farming and afforestation. The Law finally specifies measures to be taken to prevent pests and infectious diseases affecting plants.

2007: The Energy efficiency Law No. 5627 was brought into force. The aim of this Act is to ensure and increase the efficient use of energy and energy resources and to minimize energy costs. To reach this aim countrywide the Act establishes an Energy Coordination Board. This Board consists of sixteen members from different ministries. The duty of the Board is to make policies and projects to increase energy efficiency. The policies of the board are implemented by the Directorate General of Sustainable Energy. The Act further covers provisions on education and raising awareness on energy efficiency, government support for energy efficiency projects. The Act finally provides for administrative sanctions. The Act consists of five Chapters, twenty articles and seven provisional clauses.

2010: Turkey's National Climate Change Strategy 2010-2020 was introduced. Turkey's national vision within the scope of climate change is to become a country fully integrating climate change-related objectives into its development policies, disseminating energy efficiency, increasing the use of clean and renewable energy resources, actively participating in the efforts for tackling climate change within its special circumstances and providing its citizens with a high quality of life and welfare with low-carbon intensity. The primary objective of Turkey within the scope of global fight against climate change is to take part in the global efforts for preventing climate change in cooperation with the international parties and in the light of objective and scientific evidence; in accordance with the sustainable development policies, and within the framework of the principle of “shared but differentiated responsibilities" and Turkey's special circumstances.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Campaigns against ecological disaster in Turkey are under threat of criminalization. Also marked by police violence, the arrests of activists have garnered international attention. Environmental activists have been protesting against a highly polluting cyanide leaching gold mine in the Çanakkale region. Their protest against the opening of a gold mine without the proper environmental assessments has brought issues of accountability to the fore, and the concept of divestment whereby banks and financial institutions in the European Union would be encouraged to cease the financing of such mining companies and projects. This is certainly not the only environmental issue being publicized in the country. Turkish activists have also accused the government of environmental crimes against Iraq. The felling of trees in the country has been described as environmental genocide. The removal of trees within the borders of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq leads to the displacement of civilians from their homes in Harur, Bativa and other border areas in Kurdistan Region. In order to mitigate this human misery, practical coordination between the authorities of the federal government and Kurdistan Region is required and the country’s officials will be building capacity with national departments and international organizations.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment and Urbanization of Turkey: cevrevesehircilikbakanligi@hs01.kep.tr